When Gene Puerling, arranger for and bass vocalist with the Hi-Lo’s, told a packed La Mirada Civic Theater on Friday night that “vocal-group singing is alive and well,” he wasn’t referring to the specific performance of the vocal quartet he founded in 1953. Although, considering the group’s dazzling show, he could have been.
A between-the-lines interpretation has Puerling assuring that there will always be an audience for quality music and that while vocal groups may not be as prevalent as they once were there is still a plentiful supply to meet the demand.
The four men of the Hi-Lo’s created a special energy and extraordinary musicality as they emerged sounding as a single voice during their 13-tune vocal set Friday evening.
To the first-time listeners--of which more than half of the La Mirada audience probably was--the show must have seemed a revelatory breath of fresh air.
From the group’s opening rendition of “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” to its planned closer, “Seems Like Old Times,” the Hi-Lo’s wended their way through classic after classic, giving new life to such chestnuts as “A Foggy Day in London Town,” “When Sunny Gets Blue” and “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries.” Additionally, the group found great expression in a pair of folk songs (“Molly Malone” and “Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair”).
It was in that latter tune, as well as an earlier ballad, “Georgia on My Mind,” that lead singer Clark Burroughs emerged in fine form. His bell-clear tones were only matched by his exceptional interpretations. Equally musical were the efforts by tenor Don Shelton, whose scat choruses and soprano saxophone work were notable, and Bob Morse, whose rich baritone graced the classic “Rockin’ Chair.”